Oranje tops Italy 2-0 to reach World Cup semis
The Dutch women's football team looked like they were a team possessed when they came out in the second half of their match against Italy, scoring twice to win 0-2. The two teams faced off in the 2019 FIFA World Cup quarterfinal at the Stade du Hainaut in Valenciennes, France on Saturday afternoon.
Thousands of Dutch fans showed up to support Oranje on Saturday. Even with the scorching 34-degree heat, the official attendance for the match topped 22 thousand.
The first half was dominated by strong play from Italy, even as the Netherlands played the possession game that led to success in their previous matches. Though Oranje held the ball for long stretches of the first half, nearly all quality chances came from Italy. The best came in the 37th minute when Valentina Bergamaschi slipped past the Dutch defenders to get a clear shot on goal. Sari van Veenendaal went the wrong way on the shot, but Bergamaschi missed sending the low ball wide.
The Dutch team entered the pitch inspired after half-time. That trend has followed the Netherlands through the tournament. Of the Dutch team's ten goals in its five matches so far, eight were in the second half.
Within the first 20 minutes of the second half, the Dutch team managed to assemble ten chances, while the Italians had none. Indeed the added pressure led to more mistakes and fouls from Italy as the second half continued, racking up three of its four yellow cards after half-time.
It was an excellent header from Dutch striker Vivianne Miedema put the Netherlands ahead 0-1 in the 70th minute of the match. A free kick into the area from Sherida Spitse on the far left side of midfield connected with Miedema, who deflected the ball from near the penalty spot into the right side of the net. Italian goalkeeper Laura Giuliani got her left glove on the ball, but it was not enough to prevent the scoring play.
It was Spitse again ten minutes later whose free kick from far right of the area appeared to happen exactly as planned to give the Dutch a 0-2 lead. Spitse sent the ball straight through to Stefanie van der Gragt on the far post. The defender snapped a sharp header straight in on the upper left corner of the goal, which split Giuliani's hands.
Van Veenendaal kept her wits about her with ten minutes left in regular time, and then the five minutes after. She made a fantastic stop in the 83rd minute to preserve the Oranje Vrouwen's two-goal lead.
By the end of the match, the Dutch team had taken 14 shots on 20 chances, with nine shots on goal. By contrast, Italy had three shots on goal, another three which were off-target, and eight chances in total. Oranje kept possession for 63 percent of the match, and connected on 81 percent of its passes, whereas Italy's pass accuracy sat at just 67 percent when the whistle blew.
The Dutch will return for their semifinal match at 9 p.m. on Wednesday at Parc Olympique Lyonnais in Lyon, France. Oranje Leeuwinnen will play the winner of the Saturday evening match between Germany and Sweden.